Tech

Boris Johnson warns of digital authoritarianism in UN speech

On the day the U.K.s highest court ruled he had unlawfully suspended parliament, British PM Boris Johnson wanted to talk instead about the challenges posed by Amazons virtual assistant Alexa.

“Digital authoritarianism is not, alas, the stuff of dystopian fantasy but of an emerging reality,” Johnson warned bemused world leaders in his inaugural address to the U.N. General Assembly in New York late Tuesday, calling on them to be “more ambitious” in ensuring “that new advances reflect our values.”

“In the future, voice connectivity will be in every room and almost every object,” the PM said. “Your mattress will monitor your nightmares; your fridge will beep for more cheese, your front door will sweep wide the moment you approach, like some silent butler; your smart meter will go hustling for the cheapest electricity. And every one of them minutely transcribing your every habit in tiny electronic shorthand, stored not in their chips or their innards … but in some great cloud of data that lours ever more oppressively over the human race, a giant dark thundercloud waiting to burst. And we have no control over how or when the precipitation will take place.”

The “internet of things” could be useful, but “could also be used to keep every citizen under round-the-clock surveillance,” Johnson told the half-empty audience, as some leaders and their envoys appeared to be attempting to stifle their mirth. “A future [Amazon] Alexa will pretend to take orders. But this Alexa will be watching you, clucking her tongue and stamping her foot.”

Johnson also pondered the implications of artificial intelligence.

“AI, what will it mean?” he mused. “Helpful robots washing and caring for an ageing population, or pink-eyed terminators sent back from the future to cull the human race? What will synthetic biology stand for: restoring our livers and our eyes with miracle regeneration of the tissues, like some fantastic hangover cure? Or will it bring terrifying limbless chickens to our tables? Will nanotechnology help us to beat disease, or will it leave tiny robots to replicate in the creRead More – Source

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